Preserving an Heirloom: Family Finds New Home for Rare Ford Combine

Dan Depner never realized how rare his Uncle Joe's 1959 Ford 611 was, until 55 years later when he discovered that it was one of just 51 models built that year.

| February 2015

  • 1959 Ford 611 self-propelled combine
    Production of the Ford 611 was limited to 51 units in 1959.
    Photo courtesy Dan Depner
  • 1959 Ford 611 self-propelled combine
    The Ford 611 self-propelled combine is identical to the Oliver self-propelled combine, with the exception of the paint color and the engine.
    Photo courtesy Dan Depner
  • 1959 Ford 611 self-propelled combine
    The 1959 Ford 611 self-propelled combine.
    Photo courtesy Dan Depner
  • The combine loaded up
    The combine and corn head loaded, chained and ready to roll.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The operator platform
    The combine's operator platform.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Driver's view of the controls
    A view of the controls from the driver's seat. The biggest lever is the shifter (reverse, first, second, third, fourth). This combine has variable belt drive. There's a lever that adjusts the speed from high to low.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The grain bin
    A top view of the combine's 45-bushel grain bin shows little wear. Despite being in a damp climate near Saginaw Bay, Mich., the combine's 55-year-old engine is still covered with original paint and shows little rust or deterioration.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Original 1959 Ford 611 brochure
    An original brochure advertising the 1959 Ford 611 self-propelled combine.
    Photo courtesy Bill Vossler
  • Operating instructions booklet
    A battered operating instructions booklet for the 1959 Ford 611 self-propelled combine.
    Photo by Bill Vossler

  • 1959 Ford 611 self-propelled combine
  • 1959 Ford 611 self-propelled combine
  • 1959 Ford 611 self-propelled combine
  • The combine loaded up
  • The operator platform
  • Driver's view of the controls
  • The grain bin
  • Original 1959 Ford 611 brochure
  • Operating instructions booklet

As a boy, Dan Depner regularly saw his great-uncle Joe’s 1959 Ford 611 self-propelled combine in action. But he had no idea of its rarity – a Ford combine manufactured under contract by Oliver Machinery Co. in its plant in Battle Creek, Michigan. Nor did he realize that just 51 of the models were built that year. And he certainly didn’t realize that, 55 years later, he and his brother, Eric, would sell the combine in an online auction.

The Ford 611 self-propelled combine is identical to the Oliver 25 self-propelled combine, with the exception of the paint color – red vs. green – and the engine. The Ford used a 223-ci straight 6-cylinder Ford engine, while the Oliver had a flathead Continental 6. In 1959, 101 combines were built at the Oliver plant in Battle Creek: 51 Fords and 50 Olivers.

Just two nights outside

Joe Pelant would be classified as a character. “He never did anything fast,” Dan says. “He never drove anything in high gear or fast, not even his car or pickup truck. He would drive the two miles to town to get groceries in low and slow. On the combine, standing most of the time, he drove low and slow.”

Joe, a dairy farmer, bought a new combine in 1959 from the Webber Bros. Ford dealership in Pigeon, Michigan, eight miles south of Caseville, Michigan, where Dan lives. “He planted wheat, corn and dried beans taken up with a bean header pickup,” Dan says. “Though an attachment was available for a corn header, Joe never bought one.” After he died, his machinery went to his younger sister, Dan’s grandmother. “Some machinery was distributed to other family members and some was sold,” Dan says, “but my brother, Eric, kept the combine.”



Eric is a Ford lover. He’s restored a couple old Ford pickups. And as a teenager, he helped out on Joe’s farm. “That combine was the one thing that we didn’t let go,” Dan says. “We just kept it in the shed where it had always been stored. We didn’t know too much about it but we knew we hadn’t seen any others like it around.”

Joe was meticulous about keeping his machinery stored in the shed. “He didn’t like to leave things out in the weather at night,” Dan says. “My dad says he only knew of two times during all those years that the combine stayed outside at night. That made a real impression on my dad.”



SUBSCRIBE TO FARM COLLECTOR TODAY!

Farm Collector April 16Farm Collector is a monthly magazine focusing on antique tractors and all kinds of antique farm equipment. If it's old and from the farm, we're interested in it!

Save Even More Money with our SQUARE-DEAL Plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our SQUARE-DEAL automatic renewal savings plan. You'll get 12 issues of Farm Collector for only $24.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and send me one year of Farm Collector for just $29.95.




Facebook Pinterest YouTube

Classifieds